According to the New York Times, Falcon 1 Flight 3 failed to reach
orbit. Reports say that around two minutes into the flight the rocket was seen
to be oscillating before the live signal from an on-board camera went dead and
the rocket was lost.
Mission Manager Max Vozoff and launch commentator said, "We are hearing
from the launch control center that there has been an anomaly on that
vehicle." SpaceX's Elon Musk wrote in a blog post on Saturday at the
SpaceX website, "It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit
on this flight [Falcon 1, Flight 3]. On the plus side, the flight of our
first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was
picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation,
causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I
will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened."
Musk continued writing, "The most important message I’d like to send
right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward.
We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right
behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of
flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into
account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress
this past week with the successful nine engine firing."
Falcon 1 Flight 3 is not the first failure for SpaceX. DailyTech
reported in March 2006 that the first
Falcon 1 flight failed 20 seconds after liftoff. It was later determined
that the failure of the rocket was due to a fuel line leak. In March 2007, DailyTech
reported that the second
Falcon 1 flight had failed about five minutes into launch.
The payload on Falcon 1 Flight 3 was varied and included the Trailblazer
satellite developed for the Jumpstart Program from the Department of Defense's
Operationally Responsive Space ORS Office. Two small NASA satellites were also
onboard Falcon 1 Flight 3 including PRESat -- a micro laboratory for the Ames
Research Center -- and the NanoSail-D -- a test project to study propulsion for
space vehicles using an ultra-thin solar sail.
The New York Times reports that the rocket was also carrying
the ashes of 208 people who wished to be shot into space. Among the
cremated remains were those of astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan
of Star Trek fame.
SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch facilities are on Omelek Island and part of the
Reagan Test Site (RTS) at the United States Army Kwajalein Atoll in the Central
Pacific. SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket was designed from the ground up in
Hawthorne, California and is a two-stage, liquid oxygen and rocket-grade
kerosene powered vehicle.
SpaceX says that the first stage of the Falcon 1 is powered by a single
SpaceX Merlin 1C Regenerative engine and the engine was flying for the first
time aboard Falcon 1 Flight 3. The second stage of Falcon 1 is powered by a
SpaceX Kestrel engine.
quote: Whoa, whoa...stop moving the bar. Your original claim was that there was no possibility for further innovation. Now you want a working mass market model immediately.
quote: Secondly, Falcon 9 is fueled with cheap kerosene, not the Proton's expensive and difficult to work with hydrazine variant.
quote: Thirdly, the Proton rocket had over two dozen failures when it was first being developed. It's safety record of *today* is excellent, but when first starting out, it bombed worse than the Falcon.
quote: Eh? Composite materials can be both lighter AND stronger than conventional construction. Also, weight savings can be had in many other areas, such as control electronics and wiring. This doesn't affect safety one bit...and it can mean payload increases of up to 100%. Furthermore, regardless of fuel isp, things such as nozzle design and total thrust can greatly affect total payload.
quote: Nuclear thermal rockets don't emit any radiation in operation.
quote: First is the increase in specific impulse possible from exotic fuels -- yes, they're too difficult to use with current technology...but technology improves.
quote: A weight savings of only 20% would roughly double that payload.
quote: It's like Horatio Nelson claiming his 28-gun wooden sailing ship is the pinnacle of naval technology.
quote: Stuff and nonsense. A nuclear thermal rocket separates its reaction mass from the nuclear fuel; there is no release of radiation except by catastrophic failure.
quote: NERVA rockets would still emit punitive amounts of radiation via neutron absorption and breeding of tritium.
quote: SpaceX's Falcon 9 lifts 9.9 tons with a mass of 325 tons.
quote: It is. Hydrogen consists to 0.015% of deuterium. And that will readily transmutate into tritium via neutron capture. And yes, tritium is a severe issue for any LWR, and more so for CANDU reactors. Under normal operation those plants will emit 50-50 tritium via the water markup system, and radioactive noble gases. You can AFAIK look up the relevant numbers on NRC.gov . These are not small amounts.Any maintenance on primary loop systems in LWRs can only be done after purging the relevant system with inert gas. And even after that, one would sustain the yearly allowable radiation dose within 5min while wearing an air tight "space suit".Hydrogen is evil. Pure evil at 1400K. It will react with anything at those temperatures. NERVA rockets were designed with the hope that the core would not severely degrade within the short time span that they would operate in.Do you want to know what really killed NERVA?The test stands. Building a close loop, leak tight exhaust coolant loop, with sufficient radioactive shielding and then scrubbing that stuff clean would have already cost in the 50s billions of dollars. Please, do not underestimate the dangers of radioactivity.
quote: there's the simple expedient of making a launch simpler and cheaper. With less than 5% of a launch being fuel costs, there's no reason a launch couldn't be far cheaper than it is today, even assuming the same payload and engine performance.
quote: But no one is "starting from scratch". Even for a company like Space, nearly all their design is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. In 20 years or so, private launch vehicles will have evolved quite a ways from their public counterparts, but for now, those designs are very similar.